Emergency Management Solutions Newsletter
Volume 13 No.1
January 2021
L. Canton Photo 2013

Welcome to the January edition of Emergency Management Solutions.

There's no question that the new year will bring many changes. With a new President in the United States, we're already seeing rollbacks of many of the policies established by the previous administration. Many of these changes will have an impact on emergency management. In a break from past practice, one of the new President's first nominations has been for a new FEMA Administrator, one who has a track record as an emergency management professional. There is also discussion about a new role for FEMA in supporting vaccine distribution. Stay tuned; I'm sure there are many more changes to come!

In this month's featured articles, Tim Riecker discusses lessons on collaboration drawn from the writings of General Stanley McChrystal and suggests how these lessons can be used to improve our implementation of the Incident Command System. Erik Bernstein considers the "new normal" that is emerging from COVID-19 and offers a free crisis management survey to help you prepare. If you've been following my writing for any length of time, you know I have a passion for history and this month I consider what the past can tell us about recovery from COVID 19.

Be well!
Lucien Canton
Featured Articles
Canton On Emergency Management
Learning from The Past
Can Past Pandemics Prepare Us for COVID 19 Recovery?
By Lucien G. Canton

Those who have read my publications or heard me speak know that I’m a passionate advocate for the study of historical disasters. From studying how people in the past dealt with disasters we can potentially avoid making the same mistakes or affirm the use of tactics that have remained unchanged over centuries. It also builds our knowledge base for the type of pattern recognition that can lead to effective decision making.

However, there are risks associated with applying the lessons of the past and perhaps I don’t talk about them as much. The principal problem in learning from the past is the assumption that the past is a predictor of the future, that the current disaster will unfold in the same way as the disasters of the past. Past events are indicators, not predictors.

The second trap that many fall into is failing to understand the complexity of both the context of the time in which the disaster occurred and the social upheavals that result from its impacts. This is particularly true as we move beyond the study of immediate response and attempt to predict what will happen in recovery. This is the position we find ourselves in now as we attempt to develop recovery strategies for COVID-19 using the study of previous pandemics.
Exploring Emergency Management and Homeland Security
A Re-Framing of Incident Management Structures
By Timothy "Tim" Riecker

I recently finished reading Team of Teams by Gen. Stanley McChrystal. The General tells of the new perspective and strategy he needed to employ to better manage the Joint Special Operations Task Force in the 2000s hunting down Al Qaeda insurgents. The Task Force was being out paced by a decentralized organization with all the home team advantages. McChrystal and his team assessed where the Task Force was failing and applied new principles which brought them increased success. The book not only provides examples from the Task Force, but also goes through history and various applications of business and industry to illustrate how different perspectives on organizational management can bring better results. It was fascinating to read this with the constant thought of incident management on my mind and seeing how the early state of the Joint Special Operations Task Force, as well as many of the business and industry examples, had many of the same challenges of incident management today. Highly recommended reading!

Those of you who have been with me for a while know that I’m a big fan of the Incident Command System (ICS), even though I have a lot of issues with how we have been trying to train people to use it (ICS Training Sucks). Similarly, I have a lot of passion for Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) and the various organizational models which can be used in these facilities, including those which have a lot of similarity to ICS. I’ll collectively refer to these as incident management.

The root of Gen. McChrystal’s book emphasizes the benefits of organizations that are flexible and collaborative, vs the traditional hierarchal organizations. It’s interesting that much of what we espouse as successful implementations in incident management focuses on flexibility and working together, yet the organizational models we use, and sometimes even just the way we depict them, impedes this success. The traditional org charts that we obsessively plaster up on every wall of every command post and EOC emphasize a chain of command, which is so often confused with lines of communication and the continued and necessary close coordination we need to have in an incident management organization. While chain of command is still necessary to understand, that’s really the only value of the hierarchal organization chart.
© 2021 -  Timothy Riecker, CEDP

Tim Reicker is a founding member, partner and principal consultant with Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC, a private consulting firm serving government, businesses, and not for profit organizations in various aspects of emergency and disaster preparedness.
Bernstein Crisis Management

Preparedness is the Key to Surviving the New Normal
By Erik Bernstein

Over the course of 2020, we have seen a number of developments which indisputably change how organizations need to view crisis prevention and crisis management. Communications methods and tools which worked in the past are falling to the wayside, and many formerly functioning plans may not work “as-written”…but what should take their place? Our Bernstein Crisis Management experts sat down to put together thoughts on how the landscape of crisis management and communications are changing.

The “new normal” is here to stay. The world has been turned upside down and because of this, communicating is no longer an option or luxury for any company or organization, whether private, public or nonprofit. Stakeholders and interested audiences want and demand more interaction and communication during turbulent times.

The new reality is characterized by:
  • Decentralized communications taking the place of centralize, hub-and-spoke communication
  • Minimal or restricted access to resources, transportation, mobility and on-the-ground data
  • More channels, greater message dilution, less control of organizational messages
  • Increased distractions, conflicting priorities
  • Disinformation and “Fake News”
  • Stakeholders wearing multiple hats at the same time
  • People primed to believe the worst (if they believe anything at all)

In 2021, more than ever, most organizations will find themselves having to manage a crisis within a crisis (or multiple crisis). While tempting to try to use one crisis as a “shield” for another, the reality is that nested crises increase and make more urgent the need to adequately respond to all the crises.

In addition, we expect basic crisis prevention to become more intensive, and more complete. Virtual training will become the norm for things like media prep, and shareholders will demand that plans are adequate to prevent significant interruption of business or financial loss.

It boils down to one question — “are you and your organization ready for this new reality?”. To help you self-diagnose, our team of expert consultants at Bernstein Crisis Management has put together a new (and free) survey, 10 Questions To Ask Yourself About Crisis Management in 2021. For your copy, click here now.
© 2021 - Erik Bernstein

Erik Bernstein is Vice President of Bernstein Crisis Management, a specialized firm dedicated to providing holistic strategies for managing crisis situations.
Featured Video
Compassion Fatigue in the Ongoing Battle of COVID-19 for Emergency Managers of All Kinds
Dr. Mary Schoenfeldt is on the faculty of FEMA's Emergency Management Institute and was one of the speakers at last year's IAEM Conference. This short webinar summarizes some of her key points by looking at Compassion Fatigue through the lens of COVID-19 and the impacts it has on those who are managing it. Compassion Fatigue is not burnout or PTSD but it could be if not recognized or treated. It is predictable and manageable with simple strategies.

You can download a copy of the presentation slides here.
Professional Development
FEMA Releases EOC Toolkit Documents
FEMA is releasing five Emergency Operations Center Toolkit documents. The toolkit has a collection of customizable tools, templates and guides designed to assist emergency management, specifically Emergency Operations Center managers and staff members on preparing and operating in emergency environments.

These documents will contribute to developing an Emergency Operation Center that can successfully meet the jurisdiction’s needs. The toolkit documents will cover topics such as hazard vulnerability assessments, physical site selection, mitigation considerations, capabilities and requirements, information management systems, as well as training and exercises.

The toolkit is a collective effort with FEMA, emergency management stakeholders and subject matter experts at various levels, representing FEMA, the Department of Health and Human Services, state and private sector partners.

FEMA Seeks Feedback on NIMS Incident Complexity Guide: Planning, Preparedness and Training
FEMA’s National Integration Center is seeking feedback on the 2021 NIMS Incident Complexity Guide: Planning, Preparedness and Training. This national engagement period will conclude at 5 p.m. Eastern Time on February 12, 2021.

FEMA identified the need to construct the 2021 NIMS Incident Complexity Guide to be used for the purpose of planning, preparedness and training, and not as a decision-making tool during a response. This guide assists incident and emergency management personnel in identifying the complexity “level” for an incident or event. Knowledge of the complexity level helps in the management of a disaster, incident, or event that requires deployable mutual aid. 

To provide comments on the drafts, complete the feedback form and submit the form to fema-nims@fema.dhs.gov.
Professional Development Opportunities
2019 IAEM Annual Conference On Demand
It's not too late too enjoy over 40 hours of training sessions from this year's IAEM conference. Video sessions are available on demand until April 16 for only $199, $99 for students. Register at

Sunday, July 11 through Wednesday, July 14, 2021
The Workshop brings together federal, state, and local mitigation and emergency management officials and planning professionals; representatives of nonprofit, private sector, and humanitarian organizations; hazards and disaster researchers; and others dedicated to alleviating the impacts of disasters.

Grand Rapids, Michigan
Oct 15-20, 2021
The goal of the IAEM Annual Conference is to improve knowledge, competency level and collaborative skills. IAEM accomplishes this by attracting relevant high-profile speakers to address current topics and practical solutions.
Blog Highlights
Canton blog masthead
It's The End of the World!

In 1978, historian Barbara Tuchman published a book called A Distant Mirror: the Calamitous 14th Century that provided a portrait of Western Europe in the 1300's. Tuchman's premise was that the 14th century in many ways reflected the social...

Read more
EM Blog Masthead
Strategic Crisis Management: Do Emergency Managers Have...

Crisis management is a strategic function that is usually the province of senior leaders. But the skill set emergency managers offer can add value to an organization's crisis response. Although we sometimes use the terms interchangeably, there is ...

Read more
From The Bookshelf
Team of Teams:
New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
by General Stanley McChrystal

This month's book is recommended by Tim Riecker.

In Team of Teams, McChrystal and his colleagues show how the challenges they faced in Iraq can be rel­evant to countless businesses, nonprofits, and or­ganizations today. In periods of unprecedented crisis, leaders need practical management practices that can scale to thousands of people—and fast. By giving small groups the freedom to experiment and share what they learn across the entire organiza­tion, teams can respond more quickly, communicate more freely, and make better and faster decisions. 
Emergency Management: Concepts and Strategies for Effective Programs
Second Edition
by Lucien G. Canton

This book looks at the larger context within which emergency management response occurs, and stresses the development of a program to address a wide range of issues. Not limited to traditional emergency response to natural disasters, it addresses a conceptual model capable of integrating multiple disciplines and dealing with unexpected emergencies.
Speaker's Corner
Looking for a speaker for your conference? I offer keynotes, seminars, workshops, and webinars, either in person or online. You can find more details and sample videos on my website or on my SpeakerMatch page
©Lucien G. Canton 2021. All rights reserved.
You may reprint and excerpt this newsletter provided that you include my copyright, the source,
the author, and "reprinted with permission."
ISSN: 2334-590X